Part 2 of 2: International Broadcasting in the Era of Social Media


On March 8, I attended the conference “International Broadcasting in the Era of Social Media” at the University of Southern California’s (USC)
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism in Los Angeles, co-sponsored by the USC Center on Public Diplomacy.  There was so much that happened, I’ve had to split this summary up into Part 1 and Part 2.  Below is a summary of what’s on the mind of some of the most influential international media organizations.


Key Takeaways from Panel 2


(A photo of Libby Liu (President of RFA and a Panel 2 guest speaker) and I at the conference)

Panel 2 consisted of Moderator Nicholas J. Cull (Director, Master of Public Diplomacy Program, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at USC), Jim Laurie (Senior Consultant for China Central Television (CCTV-America)), and Libby Liu (President of Radio Free Asia/Open Technology Fund).

Mr. Laurie explained his position as a Consultant as an in-between for the Chinese and for foreigners to help determine CCTV’s way forward in the international markets.  Although Laurie noted that Rupert Murdoch “originally funded CCTV,” but that the channel is now considered to be “communist led commercial TV.”  He explained that there are approximately 10-15 million English speakers in China, but that CCTV is geared for English speakers in other parts of the world—such as the United States.  He explained that CCTV was modeled after Al Jazeera and BBC, whereby they provide international coverage based in places like Nairobi for one hour per day and coverage based in Washington DC for two hours per day.

Laurie commented on how the Chinese have a sizeable budget for media, but often deal with challenges such as slow policy decisions due to the structure of state-controlled media and how credible coverage of international issues sometimes appears to conflict with censorship laws within China.  The answer to the latter, he discussed, is to cover issues selectively, but credibly.  He notes this is very similar to how Russia Today approaches international news coverage for Russian and international audiences.  This approach also includes hosting a different satellite beam with different content for North America than what is beamed to other regions.  With all this in mind, CCTV prefers to put a great emphasis on business news.  And, he also noted that he believes that CCTV covers Cuba more than any other news outlet.  When it comes to social media, leadership in Beijing tweets news content that “simultaneously goes to Weibo in China and to Twitter for people outside the firewall.”  He estimates that there may be “up to 35,000 people who monitor the Internet in China.”  Lastly, he said some experts wonder if production and reporting done outside China by CCTV will eventually come back to influence Chinese policy.

Ms. Liu spoke off the record, but she did explain the overall structure and continued need for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Radio Free Asia and the Open Technology Fund to encourage the availability of Internet access and credible journalism.  She noted that social media and user-generated content are very important to her organization, as is covering issues that matter most to the local people.


Key Takeaways from Panel 3


Panel 3 consisted of Moderator Adam Clayton Powell III (Senior Fellow at USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy) and Robert Boorstin (Director of Public Policy for Google Inc.).

Mr. Boorstin opened with a rather surprising statistic: that 72% of Google users are located outside the United States.  He also added that 80% of them access the website on mobile phones and often use Google Translate.  He discussed how Google can be used as a tool to do threat analysis and risk evaluation, but that many experts are concerned that real time data flowing through Google can be manipulated in real time as well.  He used the example of how “words associated with people getting the flu were able to track it 20% faster than the CDC.”  He discussed how Google Now takes information and makes info streams, but that he wishes “that it were more efficient.”  He said that they have “no intention to get into the news producing business” and that they wish to “remain a platform.”

One way that he sees Google being affected by international news sources is related to how Korean newspapers, for example, “never allowed search engines to collect info” (using spiders and indexing) and that they’re “still making money hand over foot.”  Since spiders are able to index news so easily in America (and in other regions), the “American way of fixing that is to implement pay walls to prevent the free flow of content.  Mr. Boorstin also commented on how Google tries to be politically naming locations on Google Maps.  He used the example of the “Sea of Japan”.  In Japanese, this sea is labeled as “Sea of Japan”, but in English the sea is labeled as “East Sea / Sea of Japan”.  He discussed how there is also “a trend of populations using their national search engines” over third party engines like Google.  The Google share of the market has dropped a bit in Korea, Japan and China with the promotion of search engines that “play the nationalist card”, promoting getting news from local sources.

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For more info:

Check out this massive list of resources from the USC Center on Public Diplomacy—specifically on the topic of “International Broadcasting in the Era of Social Media.”

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What are your thoughts on all this?  Post in the comments section below or tweet me @BBGinnovate.

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Thank you to Libby Liu for her contributions to this post.

(The foregoing commentary does not constitute endorsement by the US Government, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, VOA, MBN, OCB, RFA, or RFE/RL of the information products or services discussed.)

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April Deibert

April Deibert

April Deibert is the Multimedia Blogger/Producer for the Office of Digital & Design Innovation. Follow her on Twitter: @BBGinnovate and @AprilDeibert.

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